[Brussels 16 December 2016] "Feminism must be more political in confronting the current multiple crises". This is the key message of the international conference “Movements, Borders, Rights? Feminist Perspectives on Global Issues in Europe” which took place in Brussels 24-25 October 2016. The Conference was organised by Women In Development Europe+ (WIDE+) and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), in cooperation with Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF), Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).
Over two days, around 170 feminist activists, professionals and academics from 31 countries came together across generations and continents to exchange and sharpen their understanding of the current situation. The voices of migrant and refugee women were prominent throughout the debates. Three dimensions of the European political crisis were discussed: the political backlash; the movement of refugees; and economic development and trade policies.
One disturbing aspect of the current European situation is a rise of authoritarianism, right-wing populism and racism that is usually combined with a strong antifeminism and a shrinking of critical civil society spaces. The time to act against these trends is now. States and policies that encourage an authoritarian neoliberalism, fierce border regimes, exclusion of ‘others’, securisation and militarisation have to be named and shamed. We will hold our politicians feet to the fire for their responsibility in creating conflicts and wars through trade in arms as well as trade and investment policies from which migrants and refugees escape.
At the EU level, migration and asylum laws have to ensure in a systematic and coordinated way that asylum seekers get speedy registration and recognition without bureaucratic hurdles and harassment. They must be considered first and foremost as rights holders not as security risk. As such they should be enabled to work and earn money to support their families and to freely choose their residence in the host country. We call for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by the EU and all European Governments without reservation. Its gender specific provisions including asylum procedures must be implemented regardless of the legal status of women.
As neoliberal restructuring, privatisation and disastrous austerity policies have determined European tax policies and public spending for the past decade, we want to challenge the shrinking welfare policies from a feminist perspective. Furthermore the current EU trade and investment policies are not only gender-blind but they emphasise a model of growth based on production that relies heavily on huge amounts of unrecognised, unpaid and underpaid care work by women.
Given that the 2030 Agenda, the global policy framework for development, does not fundamentally challenge the ways inequalities in income, wealth, and power are produced and reproduced through trade and economic policies, we also need to explore enforceable standards beyond the Sustainable Development Goals.
In order to navigate in the new topography of global power and in our increasingly polarized societies we need to reconstruct solidarity on a translocal and transregional level, across borders and boundaries and between generations. Making connections between issues, policies, spaces and actors, our strategies and demands should intersect with the multiple and different problems women face, coming from Western and Eastern Europe, the Global South, migrants, women of color or LGBTIQ. Additionally, we must build trans-sectoral alliances with other social movements and integrate feminist demands in their agenda. As feminists we need to be more proactive, set our own agenda, develop inclusive economic alternatives, which put rights, justice and caring at their core.